We have developed guidelines for getting more care home residents online as part of our work on getting social care connected.
There is little guidance on good practice for free and open wifi in general, let alone in care homes. We propose some basic standards here which would help wifi be most effective in care environments (and other places!).
Give the network a useful name. Make sure users know what network they should connect to. Publish the name elsewhere in the care home (such as on signs) so users can verify the name of the network before they connect. A good name also means people are more likely to remember it.
Give users confidence. Provide information around the care home that helps users connect to the network and browse safely.
Design terms and conditions well. Provide users with terms they can easily read and understand in a format that’s accessible. Make sure any changes to these terms are communicated clearly to the user.
Put policy online. Put the policy documents that refer to the network online so that anyone can find them anywhere.
Use a password. This means that data shared by users on the network is encrypted. In many cases data shared on the network may be sensitive, for example reading about medical conditions or messaging family.
Don’t collect user data. Design the network to collect only necessary data sets, if any at all. Collection of user data like name, email address, device information to provide WiFi rarely meet user needs and are often collected through ‘dark patterns’. It can create security vulnerabilities and makes the service more expensive to run.
Purge your datasets. Research and commit to how often any data collected by the service will be deleted from the system to protect the privacy of users.
Have a plan to keep firmware up to date. Have a plan to remove admin accounts when staff leave, and to maintain the wifi equipment and software.
Don’t intercept DNS requests with captive portals. Don’t use captive portals on the network, they can block devices from connecting (such as health monitors, smart thermostats and other networked devices which do not have a conventional web browser interface).
Support staff in using wifi, care home devices and personal devices safely and appropriately. It’s important staff have the digital skills they need so they don’t inadvertently put vulnerable people at risk.
In a building as big and complex as a care home, it is likely that there will be many repeater routers dotted around the space to make sure there is good network coverage. Each router has a different IP address and a physical location. This provides an opportunity for navigation.
Care homes could consider designing wayfinding services that work by triangulating the user with the router IP addresses. This could be helpful for any new resident, their family and even staff to find their way around.